2017 - the Planets are coming

During 2017, a number of the Planets will appear during quite a few months of this year.

Some will be easily spotted in the sky such as Venus and Jupiter, others such as Saturn will take a little tracking down. A third group including Mars will take a bit more effort to locate.

So, taking each Planet in turn, here are some notes to get you started:

a) Venus - the Morning [and sometimes Evening] Star. 

Between now and March 16th Venus will appear as a brilliant object in the after-dusk sky - visible for many hours after sunset. Between March 17th and April 2nd it will disappear behind the Sun. Then from April 3rd until November 16th it wil be present in the pre-dawn morning sky.

Up until May it wil appear as a slender crescent - in binoculars - as its apparent diameter reaches its biggest. Thereafter the phase will increase but its apparent size will decrease as it heads towards its maximum elongation from the Sun.

During this time it makes a few close encounters - in space - with some other familiar objects:

September 20th - it is near the bright star Regulus in the constellation of Leo low in the ENE just before dawn.

Early morning on October 5th it skims past the red Planet Mars.

On November 13th it passes very close to Jupiter and will be visible in the morning twilight, low in the South-east. 

Some people suggest that a conjunction of Venus and Jupiter may have been one of the astronomical events around the time of the birth of Christ.

b) Mars the Red Planet

Mars will be visible form now until early June in the evening sky and then in the morning sky from September 11th until New Years Eve 2017. Not really the best time to view Mars as it will be near aphelion - furthest distance from the Sun, but it is a taster for what is to come in late July 2018 when Earth and Mars have anther close approach similar to its last really good sighting in Summer 2003.

Mars skims Venus on October 5th and can be seen close to Mercury on the morning of September 16th.

c) Jupiter - Jupiter is a morning object until April 6th. From April 7th until October 6th it moves into the evening sky and returns to the morning sky from November 13th until December 31st.

For most of 2017 Jupiter slowly traverses through Virgo reaching Libra in mid-November.

On November 13th it has a close encounter in the sky with Venus.

Saturn - the Ringed Planet stars 2017 in the '13th Zodiac' constellation of Ophiuchus - the Serpent Bearer. On February 23rd it crosses into the 'Teapot' constellation of Sagittarius the Archer. By May 18th it has traversed back into Ophiuchus, where it will remain until November 18th when it is back in Sagittarius.

It is a morning object until June 14th and then as an evening object from June 15th to December 4th.

Uranus - the Blue-Green planet - has been in the evening skies during 2016 and continues to be there during 2017. 

In the constellation of Pisces it is visible in the evening skies until March 29th , the morning skies from April 30th until October 18th and then back to the evening skies from October 19th until December 31st.

You can find more details here..... http://www.space.com/35194-planet-skywatching-guide-2017.html

Enclosed are some star charts to get you started

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